Reem Khalifa writes on Bahraini matters for the Associated Press and weekly op-eds for Qatari Al Raya and Bahraini Al Wasat on Middle East and North Africa affairs.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
On Thursday, a Bahraini judge acquitted Nabil Rajab, the human rights activist, of charges having arisen out of Tweets he made criticizing the regime. But he remains in jail awaiting a review of his case, after being sentenced to three years on other charges. And the opposition’s struggle in Bahrain intensifies, including the killing of a 16-year-old boy by Bahraini authorities on Friday.
REEM KHALIFA, BAHRAINI JOURNALIST: Thank you.
KHALIFA: Well, you know, international human rights organizations welcomed this appeal verdict, but many of them say it’s not really the end of the issue of the human rights defender Nabil Rajab. Why is that is because—it’s because he has another case which—facing three-years, you know, sentence that was announced a week ago, and he’s going for another repeal on September 10, according to his lawyer.
JAY: Now, after months and months of opposition struggle and very, very little coming from the U.S. in terms of critiquing the Bahraini government for its repression, last week at the sentencing of Rajab, the State Department actually did issue a statement calling on his release and saying human rights should not be denied in Bahrain and so on. I mean, a lot of people think that’s very little coming very late. But do you think this is having any effect on the regime?
Yes, I mean, the observers and the people in Bahrain and outside Bahrain—I mean, they outside Bahrain, obviously, they see Bahrain’s very small and it could be a victim for regional conflict or interest between two giant countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is how they see, and plus the things that—happening in Syria right now.
JAY: Reem, what happened on Friday? A 16-year-old boy was killed.
I have to say that this is the first case after—since April, since the Formula One race, the car race in Bahrain. We had a case similar to the case of Husam Haddad, who is 16 years old. I mean, the number, according of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, it’s increasing since February 14, 2011, up to August now, 2012. According to them, the number of the deaths since the crisis happened, it’s reaching now 108. And this is what came out from Bahrain Human Rights Society.
KHALIFA: I think it’s not just the American. The international community, this is how we read the statements as we are following and updating the story when it comes to a human rights defender like Nabil Rajab. It’s the concept of how a person could be convicted for posting a Tweet. This is how they are questioning.
And Nabil Rajab is one of these human rights defenders in Bahrain and in the Arab world that using it widely to spread what’s going on inside Bahrain. And he defended many, many people, not just in Bahrain with different backgrounds, not necessarily Bahrainis, but even Arabs, non-Arabs, Muslims, non-Muslims. So he is well known internationally, worldwide. He’s not just a human rights activist for Bahrain or for the Gulf region.
KHALIFA: Well, what we see: they are using more public statements. They send the representative to the court. This is how we observe as journalists what they’re doing. They’re observing the situation. But their observation to the Bahraini situation, it differ if we compare it to the Syrian, for example, I mean, probably because Bahrain is a small country in the region. And it might be—as I explain earlier, according to the observers, it could be a small state, and it could be also a victim for interest between countries in the region which have also interest to dominate certain things.
So that’s why, I mean, Bahrainis, if you go and talk to the protesters or ordinary Bahraini, or even on the opposition, they’ll tell you that the Americans are not doing enough. And that’s why we started to have in the past months that some of anti-American slogans coming out, and they put the statements of the American officials when it comes between Syria and Bahrain. We see as an observers that it could be—I mean, even if they are using all these public statements, but it’s still the issue of addressing what happened in Bahrain. It is a big issue what it will be, especially when it comes to the Gulf region.
It is not true—this is what the observers saying—that the Gulf region is far away any wind of change. That’s not true. The Gulf region is part of the Arab world, which facing right now too many things. And, obviously, the youth in the Gulf or in any part of the Arab world, what they are demanding, it will be the same thing. It will be dignity and human rights, which is—all of them are universal principles. And that’s why people in Bahrain expecting that hopefully with the discussion that it will be raised at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 20.
What we see is, basically, the situation is accelerating and things are not being really pleasant in different ways. It might be there is a small change in some of the way, but dealing with the situation as a whole and seeing if there is a dialog could be implemented or reconciliation in this island, it could be really far, far away. It’s just because we don’t see a strong initiative coming out from the government when it comes that they need to show a bit of compromise, and this compromise might be a high price for the government. But as I mentioned, the way how we report, the way how we see the things going on in Bahrain and in relation to the things happening in the Arab world, it is time that you need to change kind of your way and policy. Otherwise, things will be really getting bad and we might face another thing that might be not expected within the Bahraini society, like what the Arab countries facing right now.
KHALIFA: Thank you.